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Filthy animals: the origins of zoonosis in the third plague pandemic

In the past twelve months, we have become acutely aware of the ways in which diseases are the products of our relationship with the natural world by way of disease transmission between animals and humans. This process is called zoonosis, and has been identified by some commentators as 'a word of the future, destined for heavy use in the twenty-first century'. However, zoonosis is also a word of the past, whose theories and structure began to formulate 120 years ago, as the world froze in the face of another deadly pandemic: plague.  As we will hear in this episode, with the help of Dr Christos Lynteris of St Andrew's University, this third global pandemic of plague began the process of formulating epidemiological theories of zoonosis, the legacies of which still echo more than a century on. 


U.S. Public Health Service, "Keep 'Em Out" (1942), U.S. National Library of Medicine [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvT5hwknc1Q&t=116s]

Wellcome Images, "Examination of a Plague Victim at Manderlay, 1906" [https://wellcomecollection.org/works/zsgd9hud]

All images courtesy of Wellcome Collection under the provisions of a Creative Commons (CC 4.0) usage licence

   The Show

Body Politics is the podcast where the history of medicine and society collides, and was founded by Kieran Fitzpatrick, a historian of medicine, in late-2020.

How have previous human societies responded to infectious diseases? How does medicine change over time, pushed to do so by changes in economics, culture, politics and ecology? In what ways are medicine and healthcare an expression of what humans value in themselves and others, and what they do not?

These are the sorts of questions that structure the show's conversations, providing you with the mental space to reflect on fundamental aspects of human history.

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